The Impact of Global Pandemic on Relationships

A look at how COVID-19 stressors impacted a myriad of relationships for couples and families.

Along with every other challenge we’ve faced throughout the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic put our relationships to the test. Some people have been cooped up with their family and loved ones for extended periods of time, while others grappled with not being able to see their family and friends for long periods of time. Employers and employees struggled to navigate their new remote worklife, while parents and teachers were challenged by the changes to the remote or hybrid academic learning models. 

Regardless of the relationship type, the virus placed a shining spotlight on the strengths and weaknesses of the relationships in our lives. 

When stress spills over

When we go out into the world, we have a basic understanding that we have to exercise self-control in coping with stress to comply with social norms. Unfortunately, stress often has a tendency to spill over into our relationships with the people closest to us. In most cases throughout the pandemic, this stress would most likely spill over to our partners, children, or other members of our immediate household. As the pandemic continues to evolve and shape our lives, many individuals are left with unresolved anger, grief, and stress. Subsequently, our partners and close loved ones tend to experience all of the negative emotions we just can’t keep in anymore. 

Positive and negative impact on relationships

While many relationships were damaged during the pandemic, not all relationships suffered permanently from the pandemic. In fact, many relationships improved as couples and families dealt with stressors together. 

In a small study of 1,200 people, participants involved in a relationship were assessed before the start of the pandemic and again two times during the early stages of the pandemic to determine how their relationship changed. Overall, the study results indicated that on average while people’s satisfaction with their relationship did not change, they did become “more forgiving and less blaming of their partner’s negative behaviors by attributing them less to their partner’s internal characteristics.”

In another recent survey, 27% of respondents said their relationships were better during the pandemic, while an equal number of respondents indicated their relationships were worse due to pandemic stressors. Furthermore, the survey found that boredom and having too much time together were among the biggest challenges of living with a partner during the pandemic. So the question remains: how can you safeguard your relationships against pandemic stress?

Safeguard your relationship against pandemic stress

When it comes to navigating your relationship against the stressors of the pandemic you need to assess the state of your relationship before the pandemic. For example, does your relationship have strengths that are being overshadowed by the pandemic, and can you find a way to reconnect with those areas? 

It’s also important to recognize and confront your relationship’s challenges, whether they are related to the pandemic or not:

  • Evaluate the delicate areas in your relationship. Identify the areas that were challenging before the pandemic to determine what concerns are the most pressing items in need of work. Take into consideration the conditions or subjects that make it more difficult to speak constructively to your partner.
  • Take time to focus on what’s happening in your relationship, individually. Are there areas of your own stress that are spilling over to your partner that can be managed? As you manage your personal stressors, what amount of energy do you have to give to the relationship? This will help you recognize if you are actively working to “show up” and support your significant other and loved ones.
  • Look into how to de-stress, either individually or as a couple, to reduce conflict. Determine techniques to switch mindsets away from uncertainty and various stressors of the pandemic. Whether it’s a walk together, a quiet dinner, a fun game, or another method, it’s important to step away from the stress and connect on a level outside of the pandemic.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you are struggling with your intimate relationships as a result of the pandemic, you don’t need to face your challenges alone. Therapy can help you navigate your personal responses to the stressors in your life, as well as improve communication between you and your loved ones. 

At Cypress, our team of mental health professionals offers a wide range of therapeutic offerings to help you and your loved ones on their path to achieving mental health. Whether you or a loved one needs help managing anxiety, or you and your partner could benefit from Couples Therapy or Family Therapy, our team of mental professionals can help. At Cypress, our family of psychotherapists leverages their experience, training, and compassion to provide a wide range of treatment solutions to help treat the symptoms causing distress. 

Contact a member of our team to learn more about our on-site clinical and teletherapy options for your mental health.